Two days ago I delivered my Son, Pätrick Henry, to the United States Marine Corps in Hattiesburg, Misssissippi. He was quickly whisked away to Parris Island, South Carolina for Boot Camp. In the weeks leading up to his departure we had several discussions on bravery, courage, and manhood in general. This article on True Courage is dedicated to him.

Christian Manhood

The apostle Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth in 1st Corinthians 16:13-14, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all your things be done with charity.”

Here is a concise call to duty, in particular to Christian manhood. Paul was writing to the Greek church which was ridden with strife. There were factions, false teachers and constant feuding. Church members were guilty of scandalous sins, and were being called into account for them. Before we launch into our study of true courage, let’s take a bird’s eye view of the verse as a whole.

Christian Men are to be Real Men

Christian Manhood

In his initial injunction, Paul instructed these Christians to watch, to be sober and vigilant. It was necessary to be on alert so their enemies could not gain an advantage over them before they were aware of any danger. In Corinth, deceivers had crept in unawares seeking to corrupt their faith. There was, and always is, a great need for Christians to be watchful and circumspect in all that they do.

Being watchful and circumspect means you are not oblivious to what is going on all around you. Christians, of all people, are not to hide their head in the sand, and ignore important issues. But being watchful is not enough. When the enemy attacks, the warrior must stand fast in the faith. That is, he must hold his ground. He must be immovable on matters of faith and truth. He must be like a soldier who does not leave the ranks however sorely pressed by the enemy.

But to stand fast and hold one’s ground requires courage and bravery. Christians, then, must conduct themselves like men. They must be firm and resolved in their duty. As men, they must not be effeminate or cowardly. There are many enemies to fight. Christians are fighting the good fight of faith against all the forces arrayed against them.

Therefore they must be strong in the Lord and the power of his might. Courage is fine, but one must also have the strength to bear up in times of difficulty. They must not be like a wave tossed to and fro, but like a strong beacon anchored on rock. No matter how hard the wind and waves try to dash it to pieces…it still stands.

Paul concludes the statement with the instruction, “Let all your things be done with charity.” The Christian must never lose sight of this. The warfare we fight must be conducted consistent with charity. God’s warriors operate under a strict moral code. We have our “rules of war” as it were.

With these things in mind let’s narrow our focus to the phrase, “quit you like men.” This is an archaic English phrase translated from a single word, andrizomai, in the Original Greek. Literally, it means to be manly. It is similar to Old Testament passages such as 2 Samuel 10:12, “Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God…” and 1 Samuel 4:9, “Be strong, and quit yourselves like men…quit yourselves like men, and fight.” It comes from a time in days past when manly men weren’t such a rare commodity as they are today. Of course, cowards have always existed, yet in much shorter supply than the current American population.

Like Corinth of old, we live in a day of much strife. There is a dearth of manly leadership, and a great need for real men possessing true courage, to lead us out of this wilderness into a better land. This article goes forth with a prayer that my teenage son, Pätrick, continues the manhood training begun at home…and graduates in three months, as a courageous adult and Marine!

What is True Courage?

Noah Webster in his 1828 first edition Dictionary defines courage as: “Bravery; intrepidity; that quality of mind that enables men to encounter danger and difficulties with firmness, or without fear or depression of spirits; valor; boldness; resolution. It is a constituent part of fortitude; but fortitude implies patience to bear continual suffering.”

I like the word intrepidity Webster mentions. He defines it as: “Literally not trembling or shaking with fear – hence, fearless; brave; undaunted as an intrepid soldier.” And then we have the word undaunted. Our Mr. Webster defines it as : “not be subdued or depressed by fear.” It is one who is not intimidated.

Now, when we use the word bravery, we actually come closer to the meaning of the text quoted from 1st Corinthians. The use of the word in its pure form also unites sense of courage with generosity and dignity of mind. It is the “quit yourselves like men + charity.” This is important to our study.

There are other words that come to mind like heroism, magnanimity, gallantry and so forth. The word “gallantry” by the way comes from the Latin gallus which means, a cock. Those farmers among us who raise chickens already glean the connection. We know the roosters “ain’t a’feared of nothin’”!

Before we go on to discussing our duty, let us keep in mind there exists more than one form of courage. You will notice we have been referring to true courage as opposed to carnal courage. We have already established that courage is the opposite of fear, cowardice and effeminacy. Courage in the broad definition may be a Christian virtue, but not necessarily. It may possibly arise from unworthy motives as well.

As the great Presbyterian theologian Robert Lewis Dabney put it: “True courage admits that fear exists. It makes no pretense otherwise. It acknowledges a sense of danger, but overcomes that feeling by a worthier motive.” He continues, “A danger unfelt is as though it did not exist. No man could be called brave for advancing coolly upon a risk of which he was totally unconscious. It is only where there is an exertion of fortitude in bearing up against the consciousness of peril, that true courage has its place. If there is any man who can literally say that ‘he knows no fear,’ then he deserves no credit for his composure.”

Stonewall Jackson, Warrior & Christian Gentleman

Stonewall Jackson – Warrior & Christian Gentleman

Dr. Dabney was quite capable of writing about true courage. He was Chief-of-Staff to the great Presbyterian Christian General of the Confederate States of America, Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson. In fact, during a memorial sermon preached at Richmond a few weeks after Jackson’s death, Dabney preached on the subject of Jackson’s courage. In that discourse, he points out that there are three types of courage.

1. Animal Courage. Dabney calls this the “…ferment of animal passions and blind sympathies, combined with an irrational thoughtlessness.” He says, “The man is courageous, only because he refuses to reflect; bold because he is blind.” Dabney teaches this is a faux courage, an animalistic instinct undeserving of the label true courage. There is no rational fortitude in resisting the consciousness of danger.

2. Spirit of Personal Honor. Professor Dabney tells us of a second species of courage prompted by the spirit of personal honor. He states, “There is a consciousness of risk; but it is manfully controlled by the sentiment of pride, the keener fear of reproach, and the desire of applause. This kind of fortitude is more worthy of the name of courage, because it exhibits self-command. But after all, the motive is personal and selfish; and therefore the sentiment does not rise to the level of a virtue.

3. True Courage. The third species Dabney discusses is the moral courage of one who fears God, and, for that reason, fears nothing else. He commented, “There is an intelligent apprehension of danger; there is the natural instinct of self-love desiring to preserve its own well-being; but it is curbed and governed by the sense of duty, and desire for the approbation of God. This alone is true courage; true virtue; for it is rational, and its motive is moral and unselfish. It is a true Christian grace, when found in its purest forms, a grace whose highest exemplar, and whose source, is the Divine Redeemer; whose principle is that parent grace of the soul – faith.”

Hebrews 11:32-34 speaks of David, Samuel, and the prophets: “Who through faith subdued kingdoms…out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.”

Robert E. Lee, Warrior & Christian Gentleman

Robert E. Lee, Warrior & Christian Gentleman

You will note Dabney use of the word “duty.” Duty is an interesting concept, and one which requires much more thought than the average person gives it today. Confederate General Robert E. Lee is said to have described the word as the “sublimest [loftiest] word in the English language.” But what most people do not know is duty implies debt. That’s right, duty is paying debt. Old Noah Webster defined duty as, “that which a person owes to another; that which a person is bound, by any natural, moral or legal obligation, to pay, do or perform.”

You see why we must always seek to know, and do, our duty. It involves a natural, moral or legal obligation. Most people today are motivated by expediency and not principle. What do I mean by that?

  • Principle refers to a general truth or a law comprehending many subordinate truths; as the principles of morality, of law, of government.
  • Expediency is the quality or state of being suited to the end in view, a means of achieving a particular end.

This leads us to pragmatism which boils down to this: “truth is tested by consequences.” Modern Americans are, generally speaking, given to expediency and pragmatism, and believe principle is the person that runs the local public school. Most people today have no idea what it means to be motivated by principle.

How often do you hear someone say, “I did this a certain way because principle dictated it.” Or, “I made such and such decision based on principle?” Never, right? What we hear time and time again is: “Whatever works!” or, “Whatever it takes to get the job done!” or, ”Whatever gets you through your life!No Sir! It is not whatever works…it’s whatever’s right!

Oh, but the pragmatist will tell you if it works it must be right. Remember, their doctrine is “truth is tested by consequences.” However, the truth of Scripture is not subject to change, and is not determined by outcome of something. The principles of the Holy Scripture calls us to conduct ourselves like men and be valiant for truth.

Please continue on to Page Two…